When Arts Desk spoke with keyboardist Bill Dempsey earlier today, his voice sounded like it was trapped in an echo chamber—-either a solid clue that you’re talking to a James Bond villain, or a trippy omen of good psychedelia. In this case there’s no ambiguity: Bill Dempsey and a cadre of local musicians recently formed Alma Tropicalia, a tribute to tropicalia, the Brazilian pysch-pop movement of the 1960s. The band performs tomorrow night at the Black Cat with Fitz & the Tantrums.
Alma Tropicalia’s members are American and Brazilian, and have played in a number of D.C. jazz and experimental acts (Dempsey plays keys in the D.C. ska mainstays Eastern Standard Time). “We happened to have fallen into a group of actual Brazilian musicians, who I think are kind of amazed about these freaky people in the U.S. who are into it.”
The group’s repertoire doesn’t include originals yet, though it will, Dempsey says. For now, expect some “tropicalia standards”—-stuff by Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, and Gal Costa—-and some material of a rarer vintage, the result of years of crate-digging by members of the band.
Dempsey says the Alma Tropicalia won’t be skimping on the psychedelia. The band’s friend, the experimental filmmaker Cathy Cook, will be projecting archival footage to accompany the set, including scenes from Brazilian carnivals. “It’s going to show us up, honestly,” Dempsey says.